The Road to Paris : Zunaira’s Journey
We all had our own personal reasons for why we decided to take part in this initiative but the main reason we all went was to have a strong Muslim presence there, represent the Muslim community amongst the green movement and to send a strong message to the leaders of the world at COP21.
For those of us who are unaware, this month world leaders have been in Paris discussing law binding policies on how they will work to minimise climate change.
The first thing we did when we got to Paris was joining a conference called ‘People Power Action’ organised by Friends of the Earth International where different organisations and people represented the work they were involved in through art and took part in some amazing discussions. Muslim Climate Action were the only large Muslim group there so of course we made a masjid structure out of boxes (where there’s Muslims there’s a masjid structure). There were some fantastic discussions we were a part of and no doubt a great opportunity for dawah as we spoke about what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us, how our Islamic principles are so connected to nature and living consciously and it was great to see that people were presently surprised. We met and spoke to a Palestinian woman who works on climate change in Palestine which was truly inspiring. We were also captivated by Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth speaking on stage addressing a few thousand people about how the struggle against climate change is linked with the struggle against injustice around the world.
The second day we were involved in digital activism. Something we weren’t all familiar with before but by the end of it I can safely say it was something we were definitely proud of being a part of. About a thousand of us in various locations in Paris were coordinated to over a thousand different addresses, where we used geolocation to make our mark on the map. You can check that out here.
In the afternoon, we joined fellow activists near the Eiffel Tower to take part in a big demonstration where we also met the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett who was really happy to see us. In light of the Paris attacks and tensions between the mainstream and Muslim community, people were genuinely happy to see us being unapologetically Muslim and being part of the climate movement. So much so a lady who looked to be in her forties walked up to me with her arms open. I assumed she wanted to hug me but then she holds my face and kisses me on both cheeks leaving a lipstick mark on each one. ‘Share it’ she says to me, this lady (who I assume was French) was beaming with happiness and I was so overwhelmed with what just happened all I could say to her was ‘thank you!’ That was the highlight of my weekend.
Throughout the weekend I had only positive experiences, mingled with the people from the other Muslim organisations and had fruitful discussions with fellow activists whether it was the Dutch couple at the conference, the guy who came up to me on the streets of Paris, the fellow Brit I met in our communal bathroom or the girl from Florida who needed a spare Euro and we ended up speaking about how she had come from Florida to represent black and minority communities.
So what now?
Why does Islamic Relief care about climate change and why did they send a bunch of their volunteers to Paris to take part in campaigning and activism? Well, being an international development organisation, it is only natural to care about one of the biggest threats facing some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Although the agreements made at the COP21 weren’t as we hoped, all of us came back super motivated and ready to make changes in our personal lives as well as raise awareness in our own communities.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that we cannot carry on living the way we do. Change will begin with us with our choices and with our passion and it’s happening right now. I was so pleased to have come home from Paris and see my dad ask me about the outcome of COP21 and my mum mention climate change and the goal is for the whole community to be doing this! Someone mentioned how Parisians were glad to see a faith group in a secular environment so openly represent their principles and link it to the climate change movement and that is exactly what we need. We tend to keep to ourselves and to our own organisations but now it’s time to be a part of the larger movement just like in Paris. This was the beginning of a journey and faith inspired action is exactly what we need more of to tackle climate change and injustice.
Written by Zunaira Malik